The kontos was the Greek name for a type of long wooden
cavalry lanceused by Iranian, especially Achaemenidsuccesors' cavalry, most notably cataphracts. It was also used by the Germanic warriors of the south as a pike. A shift in the terminology used to describe Sarmatian weapons indicates the "kontos" was developed in the early-mid 1st centuryAD from shorter spear-type weapons (which were described using the generic terms for "spear" - "longche" or "hasta" - by Greek and Roman sources, respectively), though such a description may have existed before the Battle of Carrhae, in which Parthian cataphracts, in tandem with light horse archers, annihilated a Roman army of over three times their numbers.
As evidenced by contemporary artwork, the kontos was about 4 meters long though longer examples may have existed; later Parthian and Sassanian clibinarii (Middle Persian: Grivpanvar) reportedly used kontoi of longer lengths; only highly trained cavalrymen such as those fielded by the Arsaco-Sassanian dynasties could have practically used such weapons. Its length was probably the origin of its name, as the word "kontos" could also mean "oar" or "barge-pole" in Greek. Thus, it had to be wielded with two hands while directing the horse using the knees; this made it a specialist weapon that required a lot of training and good horsemanship to use effectively. In addition, most Parthian cavalry (even cataphracts) carried bows, so this meant daily practice with the weapons.
The Romans adopted a variation of the "kontos" called a "contus". The Roman contus was also wielded two-handed. The later Byzantine "
kontarion" was used by the Byzantine cataphracts single-handed couched under the armpit, not unlike the knightly lance.
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